Laura McIntyre began educating her nine children more than a decade ago inside a vacant office at an El Paso motorcycle dealership she ran with her husband and other relatives. Now the family is embroiled in a legal battle the Texas Supreme Court hears this week that could have broad implications on the nation's booming home-school ranks. The McIntyres are accused of failing to teach their children educational basics because they were waiting to be transported to heaven with the second coming of Jesus Christ. At issue: Where do religious liberty and parental rights to educate one's own children stop and obligations to ensure home-schooled students ever actually learn something begin? The Texas Home School Coalition estimates 300,000 students are home schooled in the state—more than one-sixth of the national total. No one knows for sure since Texas is one of 11 states that don't require home-school families to register.
Like other Texas home-school families, Laura and her husband Michael McIntyre weren't required to register with state or local educational officials. They also didn't have to teach state-approved curriculums or give standardized tests. But problems began when the dealership's co-owner and Michael's twin brother, Tracy, reported never seeing the children reading, working on math, using computers, or doing much of anything educational except singing and playing instruments. He said he heard one of them say learning was unnecessary since "they were going to be raptured." Then, the family's eldest daughter, 17-year-old Tori, ran away from home saying she wanted to return to school. She was placed in ninth grade, since officials weren't sure she could handle higher-level work. The El Paso school district eventually asked the McIntyres to provide proof that their children were being properly educated and even filed truancy charges that were later dropped. The family sued and had an appeals court rule against them, but now the case goes Monday to the all-Republican state Supreme Court. Click for more. (Read more Texas stories.)